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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: writer wednesday, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Writer Wednesday: Should You Query New Agencies?

Today's post topic came by request last week. Thank you, Fi, for a great question that I think many people probably have. Here's the question:

With regard to literary agents, would you approach a newly founded agency (with lots of industry experience) or hang off and see how they progress?

Okay, well I'm not sure I have the answer to this one because it's really a personal decision, but I'm going to give you some pros and cons on signing with a new agency to help you make a decision.


  • More individualized attention:  New agents and new agencies have smaller client lists, which means that if you sign with them, you will get a lot of individualized attention. That means quicker response times and an overall feeling of being special. :)
  • Hardworking:  I know writers who prefer newer agents and agencies because they work so hard for their authors. Why? The new agent/agencies have something to prove. They are trying to make a name for themselves. That means they are going to do their absolute best on your behalf. (I want to make it known that ALL agents/agencies should do this for you, though.)

  • No reputation to stand on:  New agencies don't have a reputation to stand on when it comes to submitting your work to editors. An editor may not recognize the agency name at all, instead of seeing a well-known agency they've worked with before and who knows the publishing house's tastes.
  • You might be the guinea pig:  There's a learning curve in this industry, so if you sign on with a new agent or agency, you have to understand that they are new to this and might not have a lot of experience negotiating contracts. However, some new agencies are started by very well-known and experienced agents. I don't consider them to be in this category.
I didn't set out to make an even number of pros and cons, but I think it goes to show that you have to judge each agent individually. Follow them online. See what kind of an agent he/she is. Are they editorial? Do they have relationships with editors at houses you'd like to be with? (You can see this easily on Twitter and Facebook.) Is the agent someone who represents him/herself in a way that you are comfortable with, because if you sign with that agent he/she will be representing you, too.

My advice to anyone querying is only query someone you could see yourself saying "yes" to if you are offered representation. If you're on the fence, wait. See what that agent does as far as sales. If you query someone you don't have faith in, you're really just waisting your time and the agent's. So query selectively. Finding an agent is like finding the person you want to marry. Sure, people divorce and find new agents all the time, but wouldn't it be great to have a long and successful career with someone who will really champion your books?

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2. Writer Wednesday: Thanking Those Who Inspire

As writers we talk all the time about the books and authors who have inspired us. And while I have my list of inspirational authors, there is someone on my list who isn't an author. He was my sophomore-year English teacher in high school. His name was Mr. McKay. He was the most enthusiastic and caring teacher I've ever had, and to be honest I can't even imagine a better teacher. He made me love reading and writing even more, and he solidified my decision to become a teacher. I wanted to inspire others the way he inspired me.

Why am I bringing up Mr. McKay today? Well, on Monday I visited two schools in my hometown. While I was at my first visit the teachers asked me when I graduated and if I knew Mr. McKay. My answer was, "He was favorite teacher!" Then they told me he is now Dr. McKay, principal of Lounsberry Hollow Middle School where my next visit was scheduled. I couldn't have been more excited. I had to tell him just how much he influenced me.

So that afternoon, I went to Lounsberry and I was overcome with emotion. First, there was a gorgeous banner and tons of signs made for me.

It was the nicest welcome ever, and I was so touched that the students and staff went through all that trouble just for me.

And then Dr. McKay walked into the library. My smile couldn't have been wider. He looked the same, and he remembered me. That made my day. We talked for a while, and not only did he give me a very touching introduction when the students arrived, but he also stayed for the entire hour and a half presentation and then stayed after to talk to me. Because he cares that much. Hearing him say he was proud of me was beyond words. I almost teared up several times, and I'm tearing up now as I type this. I told him face-to-face just how much he influenced me and that he is by far the best teacher I've ever had. I also gave him a signed copy of Touch of Death because he really wanted to read that one with his father/son book club, which made me insanely happy. And I may have written him a thank you card as well and gushed about his brilliance some more.

Being able to say "thank you" and tell Dr. McKay that I wouldn't be who I am today if not for his influence was an incredible experience. So if there's someone who had a big impact on you like this, please tell them, because we need more Dr. McKays in this world.
Me with Dr. McKay

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3. Writer Wednesday: Writing Is...

For me, writing is so many things. I've experienced an array of emotions because of my crazy need to write. So today, I'm sharing what writing is to me.

Writing is:
an outlet for creativity
demanding and at times all-consuming
fun and totally inspiring
lonely at times
an emotional roller coaster
as natural and necessary to me as breathing
part of who I am

Yes, my list has positives and negatives. There are days when I wonder why I torture myself by being an author. Publishing is crazy and extremely hard. I've cried so many tears over the years, yet I keep writing. As much as writing takes out of me, it continues to give me so much more. I couldn't imagine doing anything else (except for editing, but that's part of writing, too). So I'll continue to take the bad with the good and hope the good wins out in the end, because I've discovered that putting words on paper is something I have to do. It's a part of me.

What is writing to you?

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4. Writer Wednesday: Author Events

It's no secret I've been doing a lot of author events this fall. I had a book tour for The Monster Within, which wraps up on the 29th with a signing at Moravian Book Shop, and I have two school visits planned for December 1. While I was at an event last month, a fellow writer asked me if I thought doing events was worth it. My answer was absolutely.

Do events promise to sell more books? Not necessarily. Yes, I was fortunate enough to sell well at my events, but let's be honest. Some events wind up being disappointing. But here's the upside. Events are about exposure. If your signing was mentioned in the paper, you've gotten exposure you wouldn't have gotten otherwise. If your author appearance is at a school, there's a huge audience you might not have reached before. I know some authors only book big events that guarantee lots of people and lots of potential sales. Me? I book big events, small events, and even non-selling events. Why? Because it's not always about the in-the-moment sale. Sure, it's great to sell out of the stock the bookstore ordered. Or to have a school district order class sets of your book. But there's more to it than that.

One thing we can't lose sight of after our book is out in the world is that while sales are great, so are connections. In fact, they are more important. Finding a librarian who books you for a school event and then asks if you'd be willing to come back and speak again is priceless. Think of all the students and teachers you'll reach. Booking an event where you can't sell but you can share your love of writing with others is great because there's no pressure AND people are more willing to listen to you if they know they won't have the awkward experience of having to say "not today" to purchasing a signed copy. And what I've found is that those people will then go home and look you up.

So, are author events worth it? Absolutely! For so many different reasons.

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5. Writer Wednesday: I'm a Very Thankful Author

Every book has a dedication page and an acknowledgments page so authors can thank all those people who helped make the book. Well, to be honest, I hate writing these. I'm always afraid of leaving someone out (by accident of course), and to be honest, I could gush for pages upon pages thanking people I'm happy to have with me on my writing journey. Still, I try to keep these short, knowing most people don't read them anyway. ;)

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I want to say a general thank you to everyone reading this post. I don't care if you've ever read one of my books. I'm thankful that you found me here and that you allow me to share a little of me and my writing with you each week. I hope everyone has a great holiday filled with good food, family, friends, and a whole lot to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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6. Writer Wednesday: Setting Up Author Events

Today's post topic came from Katie Clark, who posted this on last week's Monday Mishmash:

Can you do a post talking about how you go about arranging those author events? Do you do the legwork, or is it done for you? What goes into it? What kind of relationships do you develop beforehand, or do you cold contact stores? How do you find out about the local events and festivals where you set up a booth?

Okay, there are quite a few things you can do to set up author events. First, make sure you get your press release into papers. I get requests for school visits because teachers see my press releases in the newspaper and contact me. However, there is nothing wrong with contacting the librarian at a school and letting him/her know you are an author and you're available to come speak to the students. I also let them know that I don't charge for visits to local schools. It's hard for schools to turn down a free opportunity like this.

As for local festivals or events where I can have a booth, I search the library website as well as the local paper. Once you get on a list, the organizers contact you the following year to return. So really the legwork is only necessary for that initial foot in the door. Also, local organizations attend each other's events. I've booked other events through them. For instance, I do a local book expo every year at the library. At that event, I met the state representative, who asked me to attend a local event she runs every year. Now I have two local events that I participate in each year. Not bad.

As for bookstores, I personally go into the bookstores with my information in hand. You need to speak with a manager, who will most likely look up your book immediately to see if it's in the system and can be ordered. From there, setting up the signing is easy, and the store usually works with you to promote the event, which is great. I've also found that teaming up with other authors can get you in more stores. That's how my book tour this fall was set up. I contacted stores in my area, and the other authors contacted stores in their areas. Before we knew it, we'd booked several signings. 

So that's my answer, Katie. I do a lot of legwork, but it's time well spent.

Does anyone else have a question they'd like me to answer in a Writer Wednesday post? If so, leave your question in the comments and I'll get your answer scheduled.

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7. Writer Wednesday: Back In the Swing of Things

School is back in session, so that means I'm going back to my writing schedule. Summer is always tricky because my daughter and husband are home. This summer was particularly tricky because I had to stay with my parents for two months thanks to water damage and construction. While construction is still going on, I'm getting back to my old schedule and I couldn't be happier about it. There's something about knowing I have five hours to write five days a week that puts a big smile on my face.

Of course I'm not just writing. I'm marketing and editing too. Right now, I have a client edit on my plate, and I'm giving that top priority. But I'm also marketing multiple novels and plotting a new book because I'm a writer and that's what I do. That means I have to manage those five hours each day and break them up in a way that will allow me to accomplish all my tasks. Of course I have my day planner next to me so I can check off all the tasks as I complete them. I'd be lost without that planner. And let me tell you how quickly I can fill up five hours. Sheesh!

Who else is back on schedule now that summer break is over?

*Thank you to everyone who left questions for me last week when I asked for questions for my FAQ page on my website. I'll be sure to share my responses soon.*

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8. Writer Wednesday:

I've been tagged by Vicki Leigh in the Meet My Character Blog Hop. Thanks, Vicki! So, today I'll be talking about the MC in Into the Fire. Well, one of them anyway. It's dual POV. Here we go!

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
Cara Tillman is 100% fictional, though she feels completely real in my mind.

2. When and where is the story set?
The story is set in present day in a fictional town called Ashlan Falls.

3. What should we know about him/her?
Cara is a descendent of the mythical phoenix bird, and her first rebirth is only one month away.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
Cara knows that when she's reborn, she's going to forget everyone from her first life. So when she imprints on the new guy in town, Logan, this spells disaster. It also makes her more of a target for Hunters, people who kill Phoenixes and steal their essence so they can live longer.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?
Cara is dying to find a way to hold on to her memories and Logan through her rebirth.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Into the Fire is a YA romantic fantasy. Here's the blurb:
In one month, seventeen-year-old Cara Tillman will die. But until then, she plans to enjoy every look, touch and kiss with her boyfriend Logan, the new boy in Ashlan Falls. Cara is a descendant of the mythical Phoenix bird, and her rebirth is nearing. But first, she must die and forget all that she knew before, including Logan's face, his laugh, and the way he says her name. With precious little time left for the two of them, Cara does all she can to savor every moment, unwittingly drawing a Phoenix hunter to her doorstep with every move.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?
Into the Fire was published on September 9th! You can grab your copy today on Amazon or B&N, and take the #IntotheFireChallenge for a chance to become a phoenix in the final book of the series.

Now I'm tagging Stephanie Faris and Medeia Sharif.

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9. Writer Wednesday: Frequently Asked Questions Part One

A few weeks ago I asked you all to submit questions for the Frequently Asked Questions page on my website. I thought I'd also post them here, since this is where I initially asked for them. I've broken them up into two parts so neither post is too long, and you have the option to either read the questions and my responses or listen to them in video form.

I know you’re a Rick Riordan fan but, which other author(s) inspire you?
Becca Fitzpatrick is another favorite of mine. I loved her Hush, Hush series. The dynamic between Patch and Nora was amazing and well supported by a great plot. I also really enjoyed Black Ice, which is her new thriller. Her writing just draws me in and doesn’t let go.

Kelly, you have written quite a few books. How do you manage your timelines for writing each novel?
I admit that I get a little crazy when it comes to drafting a new book. That book just sort of takes over my life until it’s written. I frequently get ideas for other books while I’m drafting, but I quickly jot those down and get back to the novel I’m currently working on. I’ve learned my characters don’t share me very well. ;)

Do you set certain goals for your word count each day and do you always meet those goals?
I don’t have a standard word count set per day. What I do is look at what I need to accomplish that day. Sometimes I have to help out at my daughter’s school, so I might only have two hours to write that day. I can usually get about 2K written in an hour, so I’ll take the number of hours I have and multiply it by two. I usually meet my goals because I’m kind of hard on my self, but there are times when unforeseen circumstances make me have to adjust my goals a bit.

When do you know a book is finished, polished and ready to submit? Or even, how?
Basically when all I’m doing in a revision is moving words around, it means I’ve reached my limit. At that point I need to pass it on to my agent and get her feedback.

How you decide which bookstores to approach for readings and your pitches?
Unfortunately, I only have one bookstore in my area, so I definitely start there. After that I like to team up with other authors and do joint signings both where I live and where they live.

Are there any tricks you use to make yourself want to write during times when you absolutely do not feel like it?
I actually haven’t found a time when I didn’t want to write. I feel guilty if I don’t write every day, or at least revise. I look at writing as a career and take it very seriously, but at the same time it’s part of who I am. It feels weird for me to take a day off because I feel like I’m missing something I love.

How do you keep your two writing "personas", if you will, separate?
I don’t always. Into the Fire has both of my names on the cover because it was a book that really blended both Kelly Hashway and Ashelyn Drake. Of course I have other books that are purely romance or purely paranormal. I tend to just run with the ideas that come to me. I do have separate social media accounts for each persona though.

Are there times Ashelyn intrudes on your writing as Kelly?
When writing the second book in the Birth of the Phoenix series I got really stuck in a particular place because I knew where Kelly would take the plot and I knew where Ashelyn would take the plot, and those two didn’t mesh. That was tough. So yes, my two personas do butt heads on occasion.

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10. Writer Wednesday: Frequently Asked Questions Part Two

Today I have part two of my Frequently Asked Questions that you all submitted.  If you missed part one, you can read or view it here. And once again, you have the option of reading the questions and my responses or watching the video of me answering the questions.

How did you create such an engaging blog with so many followers, and how long did it take?
I love my blog and my followers. When I started it, I was interested in meeting other writers and readers like me. I’ve made a lot of great connections over the years. I also like to be very open on my blog. I embarrass myself sometimes because I’m just me, no censoring. I’m okay with that though because I want my readers to know the real me. I’d never pretend to be anyone I’m not.

I REALLY want to know how you write those 8,000 word days: is the family sequestered for the day? are you on a floating island somewhere?
I’m held hostage by a bunch of characters who won’t shut up or stop pestering me to write their story. Seriously. My characters are demanding, and they talk so fast I can barely keep up. That’s really the only way I can explain it.

If you could write anywhere, where you would you pick? The beach? A cabin in the mountains?
While I love the beach and mountain views, I wouldn’t want to write there because I’d be distracted. Give me my boring old house any day of the week. I can stay focused there and just write.

You get an incredible amount of writing done. After you fast draft or get your first draft in print, how much editing do you have to do?
It really depends on the book. Sometimes I read a draft and think it’s really not far off at all. Other times I cringe and roll my eyes at myself.

Has the editing process gotten easier over time?
I love editing. Call me weird, but I do. I think the English teacher in me just gets giddy at the thought of reworking something and making it really shine. That’s not to say that edits are easy. They can be tough, but I remind myself how it will all be worth it when I’m finished.

Does your husband read your books?
Only my picture books. He’s not a reader at all, so if it’s more than a few pages, he’s not reading it.

Which five books have moved/inspired you the most?
This list changes every once in a while when I read a great new book, but here’s what it looks like right now:
Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curseby Rick Riordan
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Divergent by Veronica Roth

What is an embarrassing moment from your life? Did it help you writing? If so how?
Oh wow, I have many. Let’s see. On more than one occasion I’ve used the men’s room by accident, and of course I’ve been caught. I actually did use that for a short story that I sold, so I definitely think it helped my writing. Also, I can convey embarrassment on the page with no problem now. ;)

If you still have questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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11. Writer Wednesday: The Importance of Having a Website

I know some authors don't find a need to have a website, but I definitely do. Here's why. When people who don't know me look me up online, they'll find my website first. Google me and you'll see that my website comes up at the top of the search results. Sure my blog is also there in the search results, but if people aren't bloggers, they get a little intimidated by blogs. 

Most of the people who contact me are teachers, readers, or parents of kids who have read my books. They look for a website, and they look for a contact me page so they can get in touch with me. So I spend a lot of time updating my website, keeping it current with what's going on with my writing. My home page has a News section with whatever is going on right now that I want people to be aware of. It's the first thing they see when they land on my page—well, under my custom banner slideshow that displays my books.

I also have my bio, press kit, and FAQ for any media personnel who stop by my site. Everything is right there for them to find in one spot. And I recently added a virtual business card that looks like this:
I know I'm most likely not the first person to use a virtual business card (even if I'd love to take credit for the idea) but I think it's a great idea. You can't hand your business card to everyone in the world, but if it's on your website, anyone can see it.

When I first created a website, I went with a free site. I quickly learned that having a custom domain is very important. Custom domains are easier to search for, and we want people to find us online. I now have a premium website with a custom domain, and I think it's money well spent. The proof is in the number of emails I get through my contact me form on my website. People are using my site, and that makes me very happy.

So yeah, I believe in author websites. How about you? Do you think author websites are important?

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12. Writer Wednesday: Marketing the Second Book in a Series

A couple weeks back, I was asked (in the comments) how to promote the second book in a series, so that's what I'm going to talk about today. First, I don't claim to be an expert at all. I'm just sharing my experiences and hoping they'll help you. So, here we go.

Promoting a sequel or second book in a series is tricky because you want to get word out about the new book, but you also want to draw new readers into the series, which actually means promoting book one. You should definitely post about book two, though. Post the cover reveal, post teasers, post links to reviews, but always continue to promote book one. Your current fans won't need much encouragement to buy book two if they loved book one. A simple "it's release day" post will prompt them to run out and get book two. You need to keep trying to broaden your reach and find new readers for the series.

Even though the entire Touch of Death series is out, I continue to promote book one. My publicist even made this image for me:
Notice it's book one on the image. That's not to say you can't use images with both covers or all of them if it's a series. Go right ahead, but make sure it's clear which book begins the series because new readers will need to know that.

Over the summer, Stalked by Death, which is the second book in the Touch of Death series, was the Kindle Daily Deal. It became a #1 Best Seller in Greek Mythology on Amazon. What also happened was Touch of Death becoming #3 in the same category. Why? New readers bought book one when book two went on sale.

So, when you promote book two, don't forget to promote book one. You want to be loyal to your existing fans and continue to let them know about your new releases, but you also want to reach new readers and draw them in to the start of the series.

Do you have tips for promoting a second book in a series? Please share in the comments.

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13. Writer Wednesday: Finding Your Audience

We've all heard that half the battle—or maybe more—in selling books is finding your audience. But how do you do that? It's something that I've struggled with, so I thought I'd share my story with you. 

When Touch of Death was originally submitted to editors, it was pitched as The Walking Dead meets Shatter Me. Now, I should have immediately realized my audience off of that pitch, but I was new to the industry and I admit it went right over my head. Now, nearly two years later, I realized that I have a huge audience I never reached out to. Fans of The Walking Dead!

So this Sunday, I'm hosting a Twitter Viewing Party during this week's episode of The Walking Dead.

In addition to the viewing party, my P.A. made this for me, and I love it because it's Daryl and my book! ;)

I've also been on a book tour for The Monster Within and I've been bringing my bookmarks for the Touch of Death series. After I talk to people about The Monster Within, I mention Touch of Death. But my first question is always "Are you a fan of The Walking Dead?" All but one person I asked answered yes to that question, and the one person who didn't said she wasn't but the woman with her was. It's the perfect way for me to introduce my series and hand out bookmarks. So that's the pitch I'm sticking with for this series.

Will this connection to The Walking Dead help sales? I guess I'll find out, but I certainly can't see how it could hurt.

So it may have taken me a while to stumble on this idea, but I found my audience. How have you found your audience?

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14. Writer Wednesday: Hi, My Name is Kelly and I'm a Writer

One of the hardest things for me is telling people I'm a writer. I know, you're probably thinking that I have a writing blog and an author website and I'm all over the place online. That's true. But when it comes to face-to-face interactions (at non-book events), I have a really tough time telling people what I do.

You can put me at a book signing or a school visit and I'll talk about my career until you beg me to stop. But introduce me to someone outside the industry in a normal everyday setting and I won't mention my job unless I'm specifically asked.

Why is that? I'm not in any way ashamed of what I do. I love my job. I couldn't ask for a better one. Yet I'm always afraid to tell people I write books because of two main reasons. First, I don't want people to assume I'm going to ask them to buy my books. You know that spammy author who can speak of nothing but their new book. Yeah, that's not me. Second, I hate when people ask me how well my books sell. It's like they expect that since I write I must be on the NYT bestseller list. Yeah, doesn't exactly happen that way.

What about you? Do you have a difficult time telling people you're a writer? What are some reactions you've gotten from people when you have told them?

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15. Writer Wednesday: Beth Fred's Tips on Plot

Please welcome my good friend and fellow author, Beth Fred. In addition to writing, Beth teaches courses on plot and writing book blurbs. She knows her stuff. So, without further ado, here's Beth!

Thanks for having me here to talk about plot today, Kelly.

What's the big deal about plot? Well, it's the structure of your whole story. Take a hardback fro your bookshelf. If the spine is in tact you can flip through it and not have to worry about what falls out. You can probably even stand it up, and it will stay because it has a backbone. The true backbone of that story is the plot. What really makes it stand up and stand out is the plot. It's true every now and then you come across a phenomenal book that made your faves list for other reasons like theme or characterization. Still it had to have some kind of plot even if that wasn't it's biggest strength. But most modern day bestsellers have a strong plot.

My favorite device and the plotting technique I teach is the three act structure. It's been around since the Greek plays. The three act structure is commonly used in films because it's all about keeping the tension up to push the story further and further along until it explodes into a climax and evens out in falling action. It's so popular right now because with the action scenes and sequences we are bombarded with in film and television, this is the pacing we are used to. The three act structure is by no means the only way to write a book. But it's perhaps the most common. It's in my view best and it's the one I use. 

Another likely option is GMC. Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Debra Dixon wrote the book on this, literally, and you can find my review here. I had the opportunity to meet with Debra and she says that if you are using GMC the seven pivotal scenes of the three act structure are already in your story. But GMC works like this. Your MC has a goal for some reason (motivation). Conflict is whatever gets in the way of that goal but your MC will do whatever it takes to overcome the conflict and accomplish goals because well motivated human beings just don't like things getting in their way. This is a logical pattern and the book does a good job of showing how to use this for plotting. I just think it works better for characterization.

But, Beth, I'm a pantser. Well, so was/am I. That's another thing I love about the three act structure. I start my books with a seven sentence outline. That's it. Anything more is too much.

Do you plot? How so?

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16. Writer Wednesday: Dream Casts

When we're drafting a new book or are preparing for a book to be published a fun thing to do is scour actors to potentially play the roles of our characters. Yes, it's dreaming big, but like I said it's fun. Since The Monster Within released yesterday, I want to share my dream cast—well, a partial cast at least.

Samantha Thompson ~ Sam is my MC. She dies of cancer at seventeen and is brought back to life by her longterm boyfriend, Ethan. Sam is strong but falls victim to a monster inside her, one that surfaces after she's brought back to life. She definitely has a dark side, but she's also a survivor. My pick for Sam is Adelaide Kane. You probably recognize her from the TV series Reign.

Ethan Anderson ~ Ethan is the male lead and Sam's boyfriend. He loves her so much he found a way to bring her back from the dead, but he won't tell her what he did. Ethan is extremely loving and sexy, but he's keeping a big secret. My choice for Ethan is Brandt Daugherty. You might recognize him as Noel Kahn on Pretty Little Liars.

Mr. Ryan ~ Mr. Ryan is one of Sam's teachers at her new school. He happens to both help Sam get used to a new school and cause problems for her at the same time because he's the hot young teacher every girl in school drools over. This was a no-brainer for me as far as casting Mr. Ryan. He's definitely Jensen Ackles, best known as Dean Winchester on Supernatural.

Now, there are a lot of other characters in this book, but I'm not going to post them all. Instead I'm going to show you the triquetra necklace that goes along with this book, because it's not just fun to think of dream casts. It's also fun to see objects in the book brought to life. 

Do you create dream casts for your books? Do you do this before you start drafting, while you're writing, or after the book is finished?

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17. Writer Wednesday: Group Promotion

Promotion is tough. I think we all can agree on that one. But there are ways to make it easier and one of them is to join forces with other authors. First, it's fun to cross promote with authors who write similar books. Second, you reach a bigger audience by merging your promotional efforts. Here's how I'm using group promotion right now:
  • Group Book Tour: I have a book tour in the works with three other authors for this coming fall. Bookstores love to book multiple authors for events because it usually drives in more traffic. More authors means more fans. 
  • Group Blogs: I'm also part of two group blogs, YA Bound and Darkly Delicious YA. YA Bound has been around for a while and runs the very successful Swoon Thursday meme. We get a lot of traffic on a daily basis. DDYA is relatively new and made up of YA authors who write darker books. We promote each other's books and do joint giveaways. In fact, we have one going on right now. We're giving away a ton of our books. That's another plus to joining forces with other authors. You can offer big prizes for very low cost to you and the other authors. 

Enter this giveaway by filling out the Rafflecopter below.
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  • Blog Hops:  I participate in blog hops, which also allow authors to band together and offer prizes to readers. The more authors, the more prizes, and the more happy readers.
These are just a few ways you can join forces with other authors and promote each other. I'm always looking for more ways, so feel free to share in the comments if you know of others.

Do you use group promotion?

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18. Writer Wednesday: Putting Yourself Out There

I recently got an email from one of my publicists asking me what events I had coming up. To be honest, it was an eye opener for me. I planned a lot of events in the spring, but then there was a gap. A big gap. I have a book tour with other authors planned for the fall, but I realized my summer was wide open, which just isn't okay. So, I got my butt in gear and started contacting bookstores.

I reached out to a bookstore owner I met at YA Fest and got a very nice email stating she'd love to have me sign at her store this summer. I also contacted the Books-A-Million by me because they were on my list for the fall witch book tour for The Monster Within. But after I talked to the manager about the tour I also asked if I could come in alone over the summer for my Touch of Death series. And they said they'd order my books right away.

Sometimes we need a reminder to get ourselves out there. I love doing events. Other than writing a new book, it's the most fun part of this career. What I don't like is booking the events because it means I have to step out of my comfort zone and sell myself and my books to people. But that's exactly what I have to do. I'm really glad my publicist emailed me, because now I can go back to her and give her a list of events I have coming up.

What are you doing to put yourself out there?

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19. Writer Wednesday: Ebook and Online Promotion

Last week I talked about booking store signings to promote your books, and several people commented that they have books that are only available in ebook format so booking in-store signing wasn't an option. For that reason, I want to talk about ebook and online promotion today.

First of all, you can book signings for ebooks. You really can. I know authors who bring a laptop to the signings so people can go online and order their book. Since you don't have paperbacks to sign, you sign SWAG instead. Post cards or bookmarks work well for this. If you want to get more people to come, hold a raffle. You can have anyone who comes over to get signed SWAG enter, AND people who order your book online right there can get extra entries. They leave their contact info and you mail the prize to the winner if they aren't present for the drawing. 

Aside from signings, you can host Twitter parties using a specific hashtag for your book. For instance, I'd use #TheMonsterWithin for a Twitter party for my YA witch book The Monster Within. Invite people to come for an hour in the evening (weekdays work best because people are busy on the weekends) and hold giveaways every fifteen minutes. The giveaways can be for anything: chocolate, ebooks, signed paperbacks, SWAG, gift cards, etc. Also, your book title will be mentioned in every hashtag, which might make your book trend on Twitter. Attendees can ask you questions about your book, but be prepared with teasers, videos (your book trailer and/or videos from your book's playlist), and other interesting things people would want to know in case attendees get shy. You don't want a silent Twitter feed.

Facebook parties are also great. You create a page for the event and run it much like the Twitter party. Come prepared with teasers and everything I mentioned for the Twitter party. Hold the giveaways the same way too. You can hold contests where people post pictures of your characters and the one that most closely resembles the character wins a prize. Be creative. 

Book Blitzes are a great way to get your book on multiple blogs in a short period of time, usually one day or one week. When a book pops up all over the place, people notice. You can set up a book blitz yourself or through a touring company.

Blog Tours are similar to book blitzes but they are more in-depth. These include excerpts, interviews, guest posts, trailer reveals, giveaways, etc, in addition to just your cover, blurb, bio, and buy links. Again, you can set these up on your own or through a tour company.

Ads are another way to go if you're up for spending some cash. Goodreads, Facebook, and popular book sites all sell ad space for different size ads and they run for different lengths of time depending on price.

These are just a few ways to promote your ebook. Know any other ways? Please share in the comments.

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20. Writer Wednesday: Switching Age Levels

When I first started writing, I was convinced middle grade was the age level for me. I wrote two MG (middle grade) books and loved it. Then I went to a conference and listened to a panel of authors who primarily wrote picture books and thought maybe I should give that a try since I was constantly reading them to my daughter at the time. After that a YA (young adult) idea came to me. And years later, I got an idea that was clearly NA (new adult). 

As you can see, I love all age groups. Writing across age groups has allowed me to branch out with my creativity, which I love. But it's also tricky. I'm revising one of my MG novels right now and my brain is stuck in YA mode. For a little while I wondered why, but I realized it's because I was reading two YA novels while revising my MG. There was my problem. In order to revise my MG, I need to be reading MG. That grounds me in the voice I need for that age level.

So, I'm scouring my MG books and diving into one this week while I revise. Am I the only one who does this, or do you read the age level you are currently writing?

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21. Writer Wednesday: Being Accountable to Cyberspace

Setting goals is a great thing because it gives us something to strive for and holds us accountable. I've seen a lot of writers posting their daily or weekly word count goals online. It's a great tactic because by telling people what you want to achieve, you have someone other than yourself to answer to. It's easy to say you're going to write 5,000 words, but doing it is another story. You know the drill. You sit down, open your document, crack your knuckles a few times, check your email, make that cup of tea or coffee you forgot to get before you sat down, walk the dog who is giving you those sad eyes, come back, down your tea or coffee, take a bathroom break… You see where this is going.

If you post your word count goal online for others to see, you feel obligated to hit that goal or at least come close. The downside to this is that when you don't hit your goal, it hurts more than if you didn't announce to cyberspace that you were going to finish that chapter or reach the 10K mark. And to be honest, there are times when life intervenes for legitimate reasons. So what do you do?

I say you post the goal. Yes, I realize I just said it can backfire, but if you have a real reason for not getting your goal, your followers will understand. On the other hand, if you are making excuses… ;) See, it's a great way to stop making excuses and get to work.

Do you post your goals online for all to see? Does it help you?

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22. Writer Wednesday: Making a Book Trailer

I've made my share of book trailers so I thought I'd share some tips on how you can make a trailer without spending a fortune. It's also fairly simple, so even if you aren't computer savvy, you can figure it out pretty quickly.

First, your computer comes with programs to create movies. I use iMovie because I have a Mac. PCs usually have Movie Maker. If you don't see an icon on your desktop, search your Applications. I'm willing to bet you'll find a program. The programs are designed to let you drop pictures into the frames and then add text, voiceover, music, etc. You get to set the duration of each clip, which is great for adjusting the length of your trailer to fit your music. There are even transitions to choose from between the slides.

Once you locate your program, you need to find images for your trailer. A very cost efficient way to do this is to create a book trailer for an entire series instead of each book. You can then use your book covers and crop them for images. That's what I did for the Touch of Death series. All the images, with the exception of one, came from the front and back covers of the books.

I did the same thing for my Campus Crush series, written under my pen name. 

If you have a budget that allows you to purchase images for your trailer, I suggest royalty-free stock photos. I use Shutterstock, which allows you to purchase images on demand. I usually opt for the package of five downloads, which isn't expensive at all, and you can almost always find a coupon code online to take about $10 off the price.

For The Monster Within, I opted to purchase images instead of sticking to my cover. I did find some sites (thanks to an article in the SCBWI Bulletin) that offer completely free images as long as you credit them. I found similar sites for the music tracks. Both are great options for keeping costs down. The Monster Within Book Trailer uses paid images and free images along with free music. I made sure to credit my sources on the final slide.

Another option is to film your book trailer yourself and hire some actors to portray your characters. I haven't tried this myself just yet, but maybe one day.

I recommend playing around with whatever movie program your computer has and get used to the different features and how they work. You'll be surprised by how easy it actually is to create a trailer for your book.

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23. Writer Wednesday: Keeping Focus

Today's topic came by request during this week's Monday Mishmash. The question was how do I stay focused, keep my butt in the chair, and work. The answer is actually pretty simple. If you want to be serious about writing, then you have to treat it like any other job. 

Sure, I'd love to relax with a good book all day long. Who wouldn't? But I have a job to do. I have deadlines, whether they are self-imposed or given to me by my editors. Writing is a job like any other. Do I ever call in sick? Sure. I'm human. Things happen on occasion that make it impossible for me to write. But most days, I'm at my computer at set times each day. I know that's my work time, and I clock in just like any other job would require me to.

I would suggest having a set working area too. Right now I don't have an office, but I write in the same place every day. It conditions my brain to know it's time to work. I think that really helps. And if you do have an office, that's great. Use it, and I'll try not to get too jealous as I wait for my construction to finish so I can have an office. ;)

So really that's it. My advice for staying focused is to commit to making writing a job. A really fun job, but a job nonetheless. 

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24. Writer Wednesday: Deal Announcement

I had an exciting start to my week. Not only did I finally get to move back home, but I also got this picture from my amazing agent Sarah Negovetich.
If you're having trouble reading that, it's the deal announcement for Fading Into the Shadows, which will be published by Spencer Hill Press in 2016!

I love my editor at SHP. Trisha just gets me and the way my mind works, so I'm thrilled to work on another book with her. And this book was one that grabbed my attention from the start. It's actually the book that gave me the idea for the Touch of Death series. Yes, I drafted it before Touch of Death. I revised it after I completed the series though.

I can't wait to share more info with you, but for now I'll say it's fantasy and it involves a girl who will do anything to save her best friend after he goes missing. Of course she didn't realize "anything" involved another world of shadows and real life constellations trying to kill her.

Anyone else have good writing news to share this week? Tackle a difficult chapter, finish a revision, get a new book idea? Let's celebrate together.

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25. Writer Wednesday: Frequently Asked Questions

I've decided to add a Frequently Asked Questions feature on my website and blog as part of my Press Kit. So today, I'm asking for your help. What questions would you like me to answer? It can be anything about my writing or my books.   Things like when I started writing, how I choose my genres, why I span age groups. Whatever you'd like.

Okay, you can ask me some silly questions too. Why not? I have a few quirks I'm willing to share for your amusement. Maybe I'll answer those as part of a vlog for fun. Sound good? 

You're up. Leave me your questions in the comments. I won't answer them there though. I'm compile a list and share all the answers once I've finished. Thanks!

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